When leading alcoholic beverage makers pay the bulk of $100 million for a study to determine whether a daily drink leads to better health, can the research results believably be free of bias? The National Institutes of Health has seriously damaged its credibility as one of the world’s leading medical research centers by obtaining industry funding for such a study.

The NIH is an unlikely agency to be embroiled in a real-vs.-fake news controversy. Over $30 billion tax dollars are invested annually in the health institutes, where the world’s preeminent scientists and physicians explore the boundaries of biomedical research. The nature of their work is to use scientific methods to tease out fact from hypotheses or unfounded assertions.

When the nation is riddled with doubt about real and phony information and the relative merits of scientific findings, it is alarming that this highly regarded science agency would collude with donors who clearly want to see an outcome favorable to their future sales. Even if the findings aren’t tainted, from a public perspective the funding source destroys any semblance of objectivity.

The nation needs the NIH to use its scarce resources to fight for answers to devastating health issues. The alcohol industry has no stake in safeguarding public health. No one faults the industry for trying to sell its product – Anheuser-Busch InBev, Heineken, Diageo, Pernod Ricard and Carlsberg contributed $67.7 million to the study, routing their contributions through an independent nonprofit that raises funds for NIH research – but the NIH shouldn’t be complicit in it.

filed under: